Friday, August 10, 2007

(HERALD) Biodiesel and Tobacco Farming

Construction of biodiesel plant gathers momentum
New Ziana.

Construction of a biodiesel plant, expected to produce at least 300 000 litres of fuel per day using jatropha seeds, is progressing well, officials said on Wednesday. Finealt Engineering, a Government-owned company, is carrying out the project, which started in May last year.

Production managerMr Clement Shoriwa told New Ziana a variety of civil works, including water reticulation, and electricity installation, were being carried out.

"Our intention was to complete the project in July but have not been able to do so due to financial constraints," he said.

So far, he said, roads at the plant were now ready for compacting and tarring. Mr Shoriwa said the budget at the inception of the project in 2005 was $3 trillion, but had since ballooned, though he could not give the figure required now.

Construction of buildings, Mr Shoriwa said, would start once the civil works had been completed. The factory, to occupy 72 hectares, would accommodate an oil processing plant, seed storage plant, cake processing plant, oil storage tanks, diesel and methanol storage tanks.

Currently the company is producing between 200 and 250 litres of biodiesel per day for own consumption and for research purposes.

"We will go commercial once the factory has been completed," said Mr Shoriwa.

Apart from producing diesel, the company also produces by-products from jatropha such as soap, glycerine and fertilizer. Finealt started feasibility studies on the biodiesel project in 2005 while actual research commenced in 2006.

The company has been growing jatropha in Mashonaland East using different models involving commercial farmers, Government institutions, individuals and organisations whom it supplies with inputs.

The jatropha growing season commences between August and September, while harvesting takes place after one year for cuttings and two years for seeds.

"It is a viable project and Zimbabwe is lagging behind whereas other countries are now at advanced stages of producing biodiesel," Mr Shoriwa said.

He cited countries such as Brazil, China, Kenya, Germany and Malawi as leading in the production of biodiesel which is now generally recommended due to its environmental friendliness.

Finealt Engineering employs about 300 workers, excluding casual workers. — New Ziana.

Mash central tobacco farmers prepare for season

Bindura Bureau

TOBACCO farmers in Mashonaland Central are preparing seed beds ahead of the next season, an Agricultural Research and Extension Services official said yesterday.

In an interview, Arex provincial tobacco specialist Mr Tinomuonga Hove said seedbed preparations were going according to plan in all parts of the province.

"Everyone has started preparing for the forthcoming tobacco season as transplanting is expected to start early September," Mr Hove said.

He said some farmers were using conventional seedbeds while others were using the new seedbed preparation method of float trays.

"Most of the seedlings are in good condition but I want to urge farmers to be careful with algae and pythium root rot which are common in the float bed system," he said. Mr Hove urged farmers to switch to float trays that make transplanting easy and reduce the risk of nematodes.

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